veryone feels that culture and society is falling apart around them. And never has that been more so than this book by Simon Stallenhag, showcasing his dystopian art in loose storyform, The Electric State.
Set in a world where VR addiction and a massive drone war fragmented America in the ’90s, the book follows a young women who is traveling from somewhere in the dust-clouded Imperial Valley up to a small sea-side town just north of San Fransisco (labeled as a “Memorial City”). In her inventory, she has an old clunker car, a sawed-off shotgun, a kayak (tied to the roof) and a strange robot companion Skip (a “Bob’s Big Boy”-ish icon-like co-traveler). On understands that she is trying to get to her old hometown, that it involves her younger brother, that there is something urgent, even fatalistic, in this trip.
The book was nothing short of amazing. The art was gloriously depression, images of tumble-down greatness, of huge robots laying in fallow fields, of sinister net towers that have captured the minds of millions, of rain on the windshield and rust on trailer homes. It is a world we can view and read and thank heavens above that we don’t live in.
And this is what makes The Electric State such effective storytelling – the duality of the tale, parts told directly to us, parts in her rambling recollections, parts shown in the grim eye-ball views of the vivid illustrations. I got to the end of State and could only sit there for a bit, reflecting on the bittersweet end, flipping back to review some of the moments through which I’d just traveled.
Ive recently read that author/artist Simon Stalenhag has sold movie rights for this. I’m not sure how this will play out in the long run, if we’ll ever see State on the big screen. But having weathered a terrifying administration and a pandemic, possibly I’ll just put this book on my shelf for happier future times.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying to avoid this book. Far from it. It left me sad and melancholy and moved, as all good books should. Yes, check it out!